LOS ANGELES–Airmen with the 146th Airlift Wing assisted in the setup of durable medical equipment and temporary hospital beds for a federal medical station at the Los Angeles Convention Center to aid in COVID-19 response on March 29, 2020 in Los Angeles.
The 146th AW is based at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Oxnard.
“This is a huge part of why I joined, I’ve been on deployments, but this is the first time I’ve been called up to emergency state active duty to help my community,” said Tech. Sgt. Becky Jensen, a section leader with the wing’s 146th Civil Engineer Squadron, and a Long Beach, California, native.
The 30 Airmen, based out of Port Hueneme, set up 250 temporary hospital beds and medical equipment, including wheelchairs, privacy screens, and other needed medical paraphernalia under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the City of Los Angeles.
“We are all working together to ensure that everything is set up properly, safely, and that each facility’s individual needs are met,” said Jensen.
Since their call to emergency state active duty last week, the air guardsmen have been busy setting up similar federal medical stations in the cities of Santa Clara and Indio to help aid hospital overflow due to the COVID-19 outbreak that began January of this year.
“This is our third city in six days, our morale is high, and while there’s always a risk, it’s definitely worth it,” said Senior Airman Eric Gutierrez, an air transportation specialist with the wing’s 146th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
While there is always a risk for California Guardsmen when called to state active duty during emergencies, Jensen stated that the ability to bring her knowledge as a chemical engineer in the civilian world to the mission has helped mitigate that risk.
“We’re doing the best we can, we are military first responders, but being a chemical engineer, I looked into the chemical background and molecular structure of this disease and how it’s spread,” Jensen said. “We’re making sure to practice good hygiene, constantly washing our hands and our uniforms as often as possible.”
Federal medical stations, established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are meant to provide a quick response to emergencies such as pandemic outbreaks like COVID-19, where hospitals may overflow and run short on available beds. During such emergencies, when every second counts, the Airmen of the 146th are capable of unloading and setting up these sites within seven hours.
“I don’t think they understand the difference they’re making here, to them it’s just unpacking boxes,” said Robin Bishop, a planning section chief with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “This could make a difference between someone’s life and death.”